CritiqueMatch

CritiqueMatch is a platform where writers and beta readers connect and exchange work for free! New: You can also buy a critique or beta-reading service from our top-rated users!

Dec 29, 2020

Author Interview Series: October 2020 Contest Winner Lola Sable

The CritiqueMatch contest coordinator, Mary, “sat down” for a virtual chat with Lola Sable, the winner of the October 2020 FictionFive Writing Contest.

CM: Congratulations on being the winner of the 2nd CritiqueMatch FictionFive Writing Contest! What were your expectations when you entered the contest?
Lola: Thank you for the congratulations! To be honest, I did not expect much to happen when I entered this contest. In the back of my mind, I had high hopes, of course, but I genuinely never imagined I would even make it past the first round. I thought it would be a good way to go outside my comfort zone and challenge my insecurities about sharing my work.

Dec 18, 2020

October 2020 - FictionFive Contest Results!

We are thrilled to announce the results of the October FictionFive Contest!

And the winner is… drum roll please…


Lola Sable’s Literary Fiction entry My Beloved Monster was the highest rated entry across all categories in the October FictionFive contest and wins the top prize, a $250 gift card!

Congratulations to all our finalists in each of the 5 fiction categories. The top 3 finalists in each category won feedback from one literary agent and one developmental editor (on top of bragging rights!). 

We are so proud of our finalists as more than 30% of them received requests for more pages from literary agents! Great job and best of luck on your querying journey! 

See the finalists below, as well as the honorable mentions in each category, which are the high-rated entries that ranked close to the finalists.







We continue to be amazed by the support and engagement of our users. It was the incredibly generous number of hours spent by our volunteer judges that made this contest possible. A big thank you to all our judges, agents and editors!

The participating literary agents were: Stephanie Winter, P.S. Literary Agency, Annie Bomke, Annie Bomke Literary Agency, Matt Belford, The Tobias Literary Agency, Danya Kukafka, Aevitas Creative Management, Duvall Osteen, Aragi Agency.

Save the date: our next contest is penciled in for March 2021!


 

Dec 8, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Jackie Williams

A warm welcome to associate agent Jackie Williams! Jackie joined The Knight Agency in July of 2020, after working as a Food & Lifestyle Editorial Fellow for Chronicle Books.

She began her career in government, graduating from Johns Hopkins University with a degree in Political Science and Latin American Studies, and subsequently assisted in consumer protection and international trade cases at the Federal Trade Commission. She enrolled at the George Washington School of Law, however realized she preferred the courtrooms of literary fiction to the actual courtroom. 

Jackie reads a broad range of commercial and genre fiction, especially stories with psychological suspense, dark, gritty voices, speculative elements, multi-generational plots, bleak, dystopian themes, and intricate world-building; even better if the stories are set in space. Some of her favorite authors include N.K. Jemisin, Haruki Murakami, Cixin Liu, Greek Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, Blake Crouch, Daniel Jos√© Older, Rachel Caine, and Carmen Maria Machado. In non-fiction, she looks for books that expand the reader’s empathy and self-awareness. Books like The Cooking Gene, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, and When Breath Becomes Air come to mind.  She’s interested in collaborating closely with writers throughout all stages of their careers and bringing more multicultural representation to the publishing landscape. 

Jackie lives in Atlanta with her fianc√© and Shih-Tzu mix, Yuna. As a thriller writer, she’s also a member of the female-led, crime-fiction organization, Sisters in Crime (SINC). 

CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
Jackie
- I was a Division III point guard and love all things basketball.
- I used to be on a hip-hop dance team
- I can sing (This is a lie! I couldn’t sing if my life depended on it.)

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in science fiction or fantasy in the last five years?
Jackie: Modern fantasy has definitely moved away from Tolkein-esque, medieval fantasy, especially in the last five years. There have been more fantastical cultures, races, and perspectives. Books like Children of Blood and Bone, Jade City, and The Broken Earth trilogy, for example, are beautifully written but also have these spectacularly original and immersive worlds. 

I’d say science fiction has become more accessible. Books like The Expanse and Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy are expanding the genre, and as technology becomes even more ingrained in our lives, more readers will be interested in exploring the connections between society and technology. 

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Jackie: Interesting question! I think it's more challenging to stand out in the YA market, particularly YA fantasy nowadays. The concept needs to be super strong and fresh. I've seen a lot of great YA books not get the coverage they deserve, and more recently, editors who have the option of acquiring both YA and adult books shift more towards adult fiction.

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Jackie: For one, our ability to stay curious about the work. As an agent, I find that repeatedly asking 'why' helps me understand what the author is trying to accomplish and influences my actions—how I edit and provide feedback, the editors I engage with to potentially send the manuscript to, etc. Curiosity helps us gain more understanding, and I believe it results in a better outcome. 

Also, being transparent and communicative. I have a background in public policy, an industry that also relies heavily on relationships. From those experiences, I've learned that checking-in frequently, updating your colleagues on your progress, asking questions, and essentially, maintaining an open dialogue gets more things done. That applies to an agent-author partnership as well. 

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Jackie: I'm very hands-on. I love supporting the author and creating a dialogue on how to improve the manuscript. 

And every manuscript needs something different. My editorial comments are entirely at the author's discretion, but it's one of the best parts of the job to get creative with the author and figure out the solutions needed for their book. 

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Jackie: Like the rest of the publishing community, agents have reasonably adapted to the COVID landscape. I request more Zoom meetings and virtual chats. I give editors a bit more time to respond to emails before I check back in. I'll reach out through more unconventional platforms, like Twitter and LinkedIn to see what they’re looking for. 

But it also seems that editors haven't slowed down and are acquiring books at the same rate if not more so than before. So, while more patience is required, not too much has changed, especially for an agent or author.  

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Jackie: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Jackie: A common myth is that agents are looking to reject queries and submissions. Agents don't exist without writers! We want writers to succeed, and with every query we read or pitch we hear, we are eagerly hoping to connect with the writer and their work. 

_______

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Fiction: Book club, Crime, Fantasy, General, Horror, Literary, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller, Upmarket, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult
  • Non-fiction: Cookbooks, Crafts/DIY, Humor, Illustrated, Lifestyle, Memoir, Pop Culture, Sports, True Crime
What you’re not interested in:
  • Picture books, Chapter books, Graphic Novels, Short story, Erotica 
_______

2 Knight Agency Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)
Margaret K. McElderry Books - 2021
William Morrow - 2020
_______

Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Do highlight what’s interesting about your protagonist. 
  • Do include 10 pages of your work, as per my submission guidelines. 
  • Do address your query to me!
Don'ts:
  • Don’t query multiple agents from The Knight Agency at the same time. 
  • Don’t use generalized language or cliches that can apply to another book. Get specific about what makes your book stand out. 
_______

Submission Guidelines:
Please submit your query and first ten pages here:

Dec 3, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Mary C. Moore

A warm welcome to Mary C. Moore! Mary is an agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates, based in the Bay Area. She represents MG, YA, and adult fiction. When she’s not agenting she enjoys baking, gardening, and other cottagecore activities. To find out more about her visit marycmoore.com or follow her on Twitter @Mary_C_Moore.

CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
Mary: Publishing tends to be cyclical, so what I say may be oversaturated now, will change quickly. However, we are on the tail end of a YA royal fantasy glut, and I would guess that we will see an oversaturation of witch fantasies and horror in the near future, as a lot are being bought up right now. MG in general enjoyed a big surge these past two years, so it may be harder to sell in soon, like YA is, but hopefully not. Personally, I think WWII and superhero stories are overdone, but they are still regularly hitting the shelves. The “Girl” titled thrillers have calmed down a bit, but are still a hard pitch. The reality is, if you have a fresh take on any genre/story you can break through, no matter the state of the market. But you need to know the market to understand what a fresh take would be, so read, read, read. And be reading current books!

CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
Mary: I was a writer and had queried two projects widely, but struggled to understand the query/publication process--this was before there was a lot of information available online. I didn’t know anyone in the business or even other authors--beyond my MFA peers who were in the same boat--so it was a frustrating mystery of how to get an agent. I started an internship at KC&A because I was curious about what was behind the curtain. But once I started, I fell in love with agenting and haven’t looked back since. If I hadn’t ended up as an agent, I’d probably still be working in field biology/animal behavior. That was my previous career, which I did enjoy as I love working with animals, but not as much as I love working with books. 

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Mary: There isn’t a fixed answer to this, as my relationship with each client is different depending on the individual, and it’s constantly evolving. But I would say that the key for the longer-lasting relationships has been open communication, mutual respect, and trust. Through clear communication we’ve reached a place that I’ve proven to them they can trust me in what I do, that I prioritize their best interests, and when I say something is or isn’t working they are willing to revisit/revise the plan. So it’s pretty smooth sailing once we reach that point. That’s also when we begin to connect on a more personal level as well and you start to see that wonderful author-agent bond come into fruition.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
Mary: It’s constantly fluctuating, but I usually have around 20-25 clients, with around 10 super active clients (i.e. clients that are in the middle of a project whether it’s being written/submitted/negotiated). I’ve found over time my list has become very curated around the authors, i.e. I’m looking for strong writers with interesting backgrounds, voices, and perspectives that I feel I can really help have a long career. So these days, although I’m always excited about the projects I sign, I’m more excited about the writer themselves when I offer representation.  

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Mary: I tend to be heavily involved in the editing process, although less so than I was at the beginning of my career. Again, it depends on the individual, but I expect no less than one round of revision with a new project, and on average, do three rounds of revision. These revisions are focused on big picture developmental edits; I rarely if ever, do line-editing for my clients.

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
Mary: Quite honestly, it’s not that different than what I was doing before, as my office is not located in NYC, so most of my work was virtual. The only thing missing is my trips to NYC and conferences to socialize with industry people. But as I’ve been at this for a few years, I’ve already made quite a few in-person contacts. Most official pitches are done via email these days, with exceptions for those projects you feel are going to be really big, or there’s a particular editor you think is going to be really excited about it, and with those you can always pick up the phone. I do miss the in-person meetings though.

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
Mary: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia! It’s such a fun, intelligent read that subverts tropes in a great way. And The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, that book is the gold standard for adult fantasy in my opinion. Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke is fantastic if you’re looking for a great literary mystery. I also just finished the MG book Front Desk by Kelly Yang, which I loved, and I think deserves all the awards and praise it received. Any authors comping any of these books, I want to see your query!

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Mary: That we are similar to other agents in other fields such as real estate i.e., we’re looking for projects we can turn over quickly and make money fast. The reality is we’re partners in an author’s career, which hopefully will last for years. 

_______

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • I read widely, and enjoy adult, young adult, and middle grade fiction. I’ve worked with a lot of SFF, so I’m very comfortable in that genre. I’d love to have more mysteries on my list, both in YA and adult. I’m especially hungry for upmarket genre fiction a la Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones or Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke. I’m also looking for whimsical MG.
What you’re not interested in:
  • Non-fiction (including memoir), picture books, or self-published novels (although she will consider your next project).
_______

2 Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)

Roaring Brooke Macmillan - 2020
Orbit Hachette - 2021
_______

Query Tips

Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

Dos:
  • Be professional and polite
  • Remember that agents are human and need boundaries, but that most of us are kind and respect you for putting your work out there
Don'ts:
  • Disparage others in the industry (books, people, etc.) in your query letter. The publishing world is small; odds are we know the person personally. 
_______

Submission Guidelines:
I keep my submission guidelines updated on my website: http://marycmoore.com/index.php/submissions/

Dec 1, 2020

Agent Spotlight Series: Duvall Osteen

 

A warm welcome to Duvall Osteen, a literary agent at Aragi Inc., where she represents a diverse list of award-winning and notable authors. She represents fiction, narrative nonfiction, and select graphic novels. Her literary interests include writing rooted in place, especially the South, multigenerational storytelling, family drama, and literary suspense. Duvall holds a Masters of Arts in Southern Cultural Studies from the University of Mississippi. 

CM: Any noteworthy publishing trends in literary fiction books published in the last five years?
Duvall: You know, I think what we’re seeing in literary fiction, with the push to publish more diversely, is less of a trend and more of a broadening of scope that I hope will last forever. I think the stories publishing now that feel fresh and new have been there all along. Certainly, we represent examples of that, which we are very proud of. Many of our authors have been among those who have paved the way for authors writing about places, ideas, languages, genders; across races and countries – so, if it seems like a trend, it’s been very hard-won, but more than a trend, I think readers are eager to discover newness, and what better place for that than fiction? 

CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
Duvall: It’s important to me to have a personal relationship with my authors. When we connect personally, it helps me better understand what they need from me as an agent, as we work to build their careers. Some clients like me to be more hands-on, others less so. All of my clients have a good sense of humor, even if the style of humor manifests differently across my list. I think that’s a key component. Also, a mutual trust.

CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time? 
Duvall: I represent roughly 45 clients, but only about half are active at any single time. A few of my authors are professionals in other fields, so they may really only write one or two books. I don’t typically take on clients who only plan to write one book, but in each case, I loved the person and the material so much, I was happy to be a part of the work. My author list hasn’t really changed over time, and I don’t anticipate that it will – I am committed to representing authors whose work I love, and that looks wildly different all the time. You’ll find a lot of diversity on my list, of material and among my authors. I have broad tastes, so I’m always eager to read from a wide variety of voices and styles.

CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
Duvall: Quite, especially at a macro level. First, I work with authors on bigger picture edits, and edit more via asking broad questions rather than line by line. Of course, there is also a time when focused editing is necessary, and that takes shape based on the individual needs of the book, and the work style of the author.

CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing? 
Duvall: Lots of Zooming about! And occasionally socially distanced walks in the park, when appropriate. BYO-coffee, BYO-wine, BYO-walking shoes!

CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about. 
Duvall: I read Severance by Ling Ma during the second week of March, just before NYC shut down because of Covid. The novel is about many things – but the predominant thread is about a virus that takes over the world, leaving people in a zombie-like state. It was insane timing, and a brilliant, satirical novel. I highly recommend it. 

CM: How important is voice in a query? 
Duvall: Very! A query is the author’s way to introduce themselves and their work, so it should reflect the author’s style, and it should have a strong, succinct pitch for the book. 

CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
Duvall: That we read at work! Boy, do I wish that were true. It’s not a myth that we spend all day reading, but that day, at least in my house, is Sunday. 

_______

Wish List

Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
  • Literary fiction and narrative nonfiction with a strong voice
  • Writing rooted in place, writing that explores interpersonal, especially family relationships, or relationships to the land, the environment, and socioeconomics
What you’re not interested in:
  • Genre books (science fiction/fantasy/romance)
  • Children’s books, young adult books 
_______

2 Client Examples
(This list includes affiliate links)

    FSG/MCD - 2020
    Delphinium Books - 2019
    _______

    Query Tips

    Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

    Dos:
    • Include a small personal element that shows you’ve researched the specific agent you’re querying – finding the right agent is a huge move in your career, so you want to show you’ve taken this process seriously! 
    Don'ts:
    • Be overly familiar, or comp your book to classics (it’s not Moby Dick, we promise, it’s just not, and for that, we are glad!) 
    _______

    Submission Guidelines:
    Please submit all queries to queries@aragi.net.
    Aragi, Inc. represents a wide range of fiction, nonfiction, and graphic novels. We do not represent screenplays. Submitted queries should include a cover letter with your name, a short bio, the title of the work, and a brief synopsis. Manuscripts should be attached as .PDF or .docx files and should be titled in the format “Last Name_Manuscript Title,” e.g., “Ginsburg_Sunset City." You may include a full manuscript or an excerpt of whatever length you choose. We do not accept queries by mail or over the phone.

    Nov 24, 2020

    Agent Spotlight Series: Heather Jackson

     

    A warm welcome to literary agent Heather Jackson! Heather decided to vault over the desk to the agent side in 2016 after a highly successful career as a trade editor.  In her 20+ years as an editor she acted as the creative midwife to multiple dozens of New York Times bestselling authors and titles, including: Tim Ferriss, Jillian Michaels, Suzanne Somers, Dr. Steven Gundry, Tara Stiles, Ron Fournier, Joy Bauer, Janine Driver, Rick Hanson, Dr. Robert C. Atkins, Dr. Joseph Mercola, Dr. Arthur Agatston, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Dr. Susan Love, Dr. Alice D. Domar, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, Mallika Chopra, Martina Navratilova, Joe and Teresa Graedon, B. Smith,... among many others.

    CM: Please share a fun fact about you.  
    Heather: I received a Book Worm award at the age of 10 in summer camp, setting the stage for my life-long book nerdery.

    CM: Think about the next book whose author you could represent. Give us three emotions you want their book to evoke. 
    Heather: Joy. Laughter. Hope.  I think we’ve been sorely lacking in these items (or maybe I’m projecting) over the course of the last few years in our world and on our bookshelves.

    CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?  
    Heather: I don’t think that process has actually changed much.  Yes, we can’t meet over a meal or a cocktail and share about the works we’re excited about, but we can talk on the phone, by email, or by the omnipresent Zoom.  Calls are perhaps the trickiest to manage, though, as folks work from home and have other distractions and obligations for a spur of the moment chat.  So your pitch letter—much like an author’s when seeking representation—has to be, well, ‘pitch-perfect’. I feel lucky enough to have spent so much of my adult life in publishing that I have long-term relationships with editors that aren’t harmed by this moment; it is much harder to be an agent or editor starting out now. That’s why one of my agent groups has made it a point to start outreach to meet the younger generation of editors in Zoom meetings.

    CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time? 
    Heather: I currently represent 40 clients at various stages of the publication or pre-publication process, but I try not to ‘sell’ more than 12-15 titles a year so that I can be deeply involved in every aspect of the book’s path to readers.  I believe that the sale to a publisher isn’t the endpoint, but rather the start; I try to use the years I had on the other side of the desk to build a bridge for the author, so they can understand the publishing process best and I can help shepherd them through each step.  The beauty of becoming an agent—and the primary force behind my decision to become one—is that the editorial and creative concepts can be and have been broadened out to all of my interests, not just one segment of the marketplace. As an editor, I could work on one particular genre; now I can work with authors who write commercial fiction, narrative non-fiction, and of course, the more practical non-fiction that I have been lucky enough to have had success with throughout my years as a publishing professional. So I’m ridiculously lucky to be able to ‘play’ in the field of the ideas that excite me most while helping authors to find homes for their brilliance and creativity.

    CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers? 
    Heather: I bet you can guess the answer to this one: very much so. It is so very difficult to sell a book and made much more so if you don’t present the absolute best version of a proposal or manuscript that you can to the editors you are pitching.  They are bombarded every day from every angle, and as such, their lists and their mindsets are tilted towards a reason to say no.  I like to try and remove as many reasons for that “no” as possible before we send out, so as to give an author the absolute best shot at a good sale and a good home.  And even then, most of the process of selling the book is filled with rejection, even when making a ‘big’ sale.   

    CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
    Heather: I think there are a few, but for purposes of this chat, the one I think authors really must know: agents aren’t all-powerful or Oz-like.  They can and should and will do the best job possible for their authors, but they can’t control the marketplace.  I say this as it makes it all the more urgent that authors truly hone their craft and understand the publishing landscape that author and agent navigate together.  It’s a bumpy, twisty, sometimes terrifying road; a good agent will know its twists and turns and advise accordingly.  

    ______

    Wish List

    Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
    • We specialize in commercial non-fiction and fiction. We represent top-tier authors in personal health and well-being, popular science and psychology, politics and current affairs, business, memoir, and self-help. 
    • We are always game for the unique or deeply moving journalistic narrative that takes us into a world we didn't know would intrigue us through its brilliant writing and insights. We love big ideas and groundbreaking big think books. 
    • Lastly, we love a great and memorable character in women's fiction and are steadfastly looking for a reliable narrator who isn't a hot mess and a great ‘new-fashioned’ family saga.
    What you’re not interested in:

    • Science fiction, children’s board books, speculative fiction.

    ______

    2 Client Examples
    (This list includes affiliate links)

    Harmony - 2020
    Atria Books - 2020
    ______

    Query Tips
    Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

    Dos:
    • Check your grammar and make sure there are no typos in your query letter.  Have fun and breathe.  Be thoughtful and specific.  Remember: your query is one of many that an agent is seeing that day/week/month, so a smart voice and super smart writing is key to standing out.
    Don'ts:
    • Tell me what I’d like to read; just tell me about your work.  Ignore an agency’s guidelines for submission; do so and you’re at risk of not being reviewed at all.  Take it personally if you don’t hear back; many agents, including myself, will only respond if a query intrigues them.  We’re not being bad people, just needing to make sure that we have enough time to do our jobs properly for our clients—and the slush pile can be a full-time job in and of itself. 
    _______

    Submission Guidelines
    Submit to: QUERY@HJLIT.COM
    We do not accept unsolicited proposals or manuscripts. Though we deeply respect every author's work, due to the volume of submitted queries we can only respond to projects we are interested in pursuing.  Please send your query to the below address with a brief description of your book, its uniqueness in the marketplace, and why you and only you can write it. Do not send attachments.















    Nov 19, 2020

    Agent Spotlight Series - Felicia Eth

     CritiqueMatch welcomes literary agent Felicia Eth to our next Agent Spotlight Series article! Felicia Eth Literary Representation is a one-woman full-service literary agency dedicated to handling book properties comprised of strong voices, intellectually stimulating storylines or discussions, flavorful narratives, books which make a unique contribution and the occasional quirky book that is just too difficult to resist.

    Though Ms. Eth prefers a small and selective list, she continues to search for new clients and new properties, primarily in adult fiction and nonfiction. The agency’s contacts are primarily with major commercial houses, smaller reputable presses and university presses with trade lists.

    Felicia Eth
    CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
    Felicia: 
    I was once mistaken for Cher by photographers at an event I attended.
    I had an offer to publish a collection of my submission letters. (This is the lie, though I had an editor suggest she'd be willing to try if I submitted them formally.)
    A client of mine once made me dinner and surprised me by making tongue.  

    CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
    Felicia: Recently we’ve seen a plethora of dystopian novels, dependency memoirs, and lots of historical novels attempting to redress racial and multicultural issues.

    CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
    Felicia: Honesty, respect, and friendship have a lot to do with a great working relationship. When I handle a property, it’s about much more than the book, though, of course, that’s what I’m selling. It’s about a commitment which both the author and I have made to each other. Representing projects can be stressful, and a really solid professional relationship built on these qualities makes the process more of a joy than a burden.

    CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
    Felicia: The answer here varies from project to project but on the whole, I am quite hands-on. Rarely does a project get sent out by me where the author hasn’t gone through one or two revisions, and I can recall one project which was a first book, where the author revised the proposal 8 or 9 times, but I did end up getting him a $100,000 advance.  But honestly, I’ve worked just as hard with books that sold for $7500. 

    CM: How important is voice in a query? 
    Felicia: Terribly important. Lots of people write good queries for books that often sound similar to other projects being pitched. But a query that jumps out from the others foreshadows a book that might jump out as well, and that’s the one I’m likely to invite a submission on. That doesn’t mean something that’s gimmicky, but something that has all the necessary components plus that something extra.

    CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing? 
    Felicia: I am a small one-person agency, so I’m not hiring on new people. But I have always had an interest in broadening the perspective of books available to the reading public, going way back to when I first worked at Writers House and sold Octavia Butler’s earliest books including Kindred, to Carolyn Scott Brown’s Black Woman’s Guide to Menopause, to my most recent sale of Keenan Norris’s forthcoming The Confessions of Copeland Cane. 

    CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
    Felicia: People often think we lead a glamorous life, and are only interested in giant commercial novels. In my experience, neither could be further from the truth. 

    CM: Should every book have an agent?
    Felicia: Not necessarily. There are many different ways to sell books these days, and Big 5 commercial trade publishing is not right for every book. Many options exist, including specialized presses, digital-only houses, small independent publishers, Christian publishers, self-publishing, etc. The criteria that agents and major houses have for what to take on aren’t only about a book’s worth, so you need to be aware of that when looking for representation.

    _______

    Wish List

    Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
    • Literary accessible fiction, historical and suspense novels with a literary bent that transcend genre, novels with a magical realism and/or a multicultural element.
    • Narrative nonfiction including memoir, journalism, unusual travel books, popular science, psychological and social concerns, women’s issues, fresh parenting ideas, culinary writing.
    What you’re not interested in:
    • Genre fiction, including romance novels, sci fi and fantasy, westerns, anime and graphic novels, mysteries. 
    • Poetry, academic or technical books. 
    • Picture books or chapter books for the juvenile market (except where the author is also a writer of adult books which we are interested in). 
    • Christian books, humor or how-to books. 
    • Screenplays.
    _______

    2 Client Examples
    (This list includes affiliate links)
    Ten Speed Press/Random House - 2020
    Ballantine Book/ Random House - 2012
    _______
    Query Tips

    Dos:
    • Brief, well-written, definitely include your credentials and any past history re submissions as well as previous publications. 
    Don'ts:
    • Make demands. 
    • Forget to mention it’s a multiple submission.
    • Presume to know it’s exactly what I’m looking for. 
    • Query on books in areas I say I am not looking for. 
    • Send a complete manuscript or pages unless I invite submission.
    _______

    Submission Guidelines:
    Submissions are preferred online to feliciaeth.literary@gmail.com or if necessary by hardcopy to: Felicia Eth Literary Representation, 555 Bryant St., Suite 350,Palo Alto, Ca. 94301. All hardcopy submissions should include a s.a.s.e. with postage.

    For fiction: 
    Please write a query letter introducing yourself, your book, your writing background. Don’t forget to include degrees you may have, publishing credits, awards and endorsements. Please wait for a response before including sample pages. We only consider material where the manuscript for which you are querying is complete, unless you have previously published.
    For non-fiction: 
    A query letter is best, introducing your idea and what you have written already (proposal, manuscript?). For writerly nonfiction (narratives, bio, memoir) please let us know if you have a finished manuscript. Also it’s important you include information about yourself, your background and expertise, your platform and notoriety, if any.

    Nov 17, 2020

    Agent Spotlight Series: Annie Bomke

    A warm welcome to literary agent Annie Bomke! Annie has over a decade of experience helping authors succeed. Her books include Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver, winner of the Macavity Award for Best First Novel, and nominated for a Lammy Award, Strand Critics Award, Barry Award and Anthony Award, and the Barnes & Noble bestselling Poppy McAllister cozy mystery series by Libby Klein. She has edited a wide range of projects—from hard-nosed business books to otherworldly historical novels. Authors have called her the pH test for good writing, and a bedrock for literary quality control. 

    Annie has loved the publishing industry since her position as an Editorial Assistant at Zoetrope: All-Story, a literary magazine founded by Francis Ford Coppola. She explored her love of books managing Alcala Gallery, an art gallery and rare bookstore, and even had a brief stint as a technical writer for a Department of Defense contractor.

    Annie spends her free time reading, going for walks in the park, and dancing. Her favorite authors include Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, Ray Bradbury, Tana French, and Paul Auster.

    CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
    Annie: 
    - The Odyssey is my all-time favorite book.  (This is the lie.  I hate The Odyssey with a passion to block out the sun.)
    - I don’t know how to ride a bike.
    - As a small child, I was so neurotic that I wouldn’t leave the house if my socks didn’t match.

    CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?  
    Annie: The most important thing in an agent-author relationship is honest, respectful communication.  Part of this means being open to the other person’s perspective.  That doesn’t mean I expect clients to agree with me on all the feedback I offer them.  It means that if they disagree, I would want them to communicate why and offer possible alternative ways to approach the issue.  

    I also love swapping book and movie/TV recommendations with clients.  I’ve heard about so many cool shows and books from my authors.

    CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
    Annie: Right now, I have 22 clients.  While there are certain genres I gravitate towards (like mysteries and historical fiction), over time I’ve found myself broadening the list of genres I represent.  For instance, last year I sent out the first memoir, interior design book and horror novel I had ever represented.  If you had asked me a year before if I had any plans to work on those genres, I probably would’ve said no, but the right projects came along that made it easy to say yes.

    CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
    Annie: I am very hands-on.  I usually go through anywhere from two to eight drafts of a manuscript before I send it out.  I’m a compulsive grammar-corrector, so my comments always cover copyediting as well as big picture stuff, like character development, plot and writing.  


    CM: Are there any virtual events you recommend for writers in the querying trenches? 
    Annie: I am a huge fan of Twitter pitch parties.  The biggest one is probably #pitmad, which happens four times a year, but there are also smaller pitch parties (often based on genre) that are worthwhile too.  Basically, writers post tweets pitching their books in 280 characters, and agents peruse the pitches, requesting sample pages of any that catch their eye.  It’s a great way for authors to get the attention of multiple agents at once, and to have agents requesting that you contact them (instead of the other way around).  I love Twitter pitch parties because they help me find projects that are very targeted to my interests.  I’ve found a lot of clients through them.

    There are also a lot of virtual writers’ conferences going on this year with COVID that allow you to pitch your book to agents from the comfort of your own home.

    CM: How important is voice in a query?
    Annie: Voice is probably the biggest thing I look for in a submission.  For me, voice comes down to writing that a) feels like it’s from the point-of-view of a real person, b) offers me a unique image or a fresh way of thinking of something, and c) makes me feel something.  In other words, it has depth, nuance and personality, and it provokes an emotional response in me.  It’s a tricky thing to achieve, and VERY, VERY subjective.
     
    CM: How is your agency addressing the need for diversity and inclusion in publishing?
    Annie: While I’ve always sought to represent diverse authors, lately I have been looking for more active ways to do this.  Part of this has been requesting diverse submissions via Twitter and my MSWL page.  I have also been searching through genre hashtags during Twitter pitch parties to find books by diverse authors more easily.  For instance, #pitmad has introduced a #BVM hashtag (#BlackVoicesMatter) that Black authors can include in their pitches, and I will browse through that hashtag before looking at any others.  (They also offer #POC and #LGBTQ hashtags that I look at as well.)  And I participate in #DVpit, a Twitter pitch party for diverse voices, founded by agent Beth Phelan.

    I have also been more mindful about representing #OwnVoices books.  I am very hesitant to work on a book with a diverse protagonist that isn’t #OwnVoices, because there will always be a question of how representative the book really is.
     
    CM: What is a common myth about agents? 
    Annie: That we’re heartless machines or that we enjoy rejecting authors.  No one enjoys giving or receiving a rejection, but it is a necessary part of publishing.  Even though agents have a lot of experience rejecting authors (most agents reject at least 90% of what they receive), we’re not fully immune to the sting of receiving or giving a rejection.  I’ve felt sick to my stomach writing rejection letters, yet I know it was ultimately the right decision for me.  

    The submission process involves a lot of waiting to hear back from agents, and generally, if an author does hear back, they get a form letter.  So I think a lot of authors feel like they and their book are treated like a cog in a machine, almost like no one reads their submission.  It’s a very impersonal process, so I think sometimes authors forget that agents are people—people with personal preferences, quirks, chapped lips, mortgages.  They’re looking for books that they love.  I always tell authors that when I read a query, I don’t make a value judgment about whether or not it’s a “good” book.  I’m looking for projects that appeal to me specifically (and that I believe I can sell to a publisher).  Publishing is a deeply personal industry, which makes it a deeply subjective industry.  

    _______

    Wish List

    Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
    • Adult and YA fiction: commercial and literary fiction, upmarket fiction, mysteries (from hilarious cozies to gritty police procedurals and everything in between), historical fiction, women’s fiction, psychological thrillers, literary/psychological horror, magical realism.
    • Nonfiction: Self-help, business, health/diet, cookbooks, memoir, relationships, current events, true crime psychology, and narrative nonfiction. 
    • I'm especially looking for books that feature diverse characters.
    What you’re not interested in:
    • Fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, romance, screenplays, novellas, poetry, middle grade, chapter books, and picture books.
    _______

    2 Client Examples
    (This list includes affiliate links)

    Crooked Lane Books - 2020
    Skyhorse Publishing - 2020
    _______

    Query Tips

    Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

    Dos:
    • Make sure you show the primary conflict and rising action in your query.  Many queries that I get make the plot sound passive, or not active enough to keep readers invested in the story, so make sure the conflict is front and center.
    • Include comp titles in your query.  It shows you’ve done your research and you know where your book fits in the market.
    • Give the agent the submission package they ask for in their submission guidelines, whether it’s just a query or a query plus a certain number of sample pages.  It sounds like the simplest thing in the world, yet it makes a big difference in showing agents that you can be professional.  You want to treat querying an agent with the same level of professionalism as applying for a job.  One of my pet peeves is when authors send me an informal email telling me they’re looking for an agent and asking if I’m interested in learning more.  They haven’t sent me the submission package I ask for on my website or told me enough about their book for me to know if I’m interested.  
    • Make sure your name and the agent’s name are spelled correctly.  Again, it sounds so obvious, but I’ve seen authors misspell or not include their own names plenty of times (and had my last name misspelled so often I started keeping track of all the spellings)!
    Don'ts:
    • If an agent has asked for sample pages, don’t send them a link to your sample writing.  Most agents are wary about clicking on strange links (myself included).  And you’re showing that you can’t follow their directions, which will make agents question your professionalism.
    • Open your query with an explanation of why you decided to write the book.  Just launch straight into the plot.
    • Write the query from the POV of a character.  This is confusing for agents, because we’re left trying to separate the content of the book from the character’s perspective.
    • Respond to a rejection letter by asking the agent to recommend other agents to submit your project to.  I don’t keep track of what other agents are looking for, so I can’t make any recommendations off the top of my head.  Also, I typically don’t have time to respond to authors once I’ve turned them down.  
    _______

    Submission Guidelines:
    For all fiction submissions, please include a query letter, synopsis, and the first two chapters of your manuscript pasted in the body of the email.
    For all nonfiction submissions, please include a query letter and proposal.

    You can email submissions to submissions@abliterary.com, or mail them to the following address: Annie Bomke Literary Agency, P. O. Box 3759, San Diego, CA 92163.
    Please include a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) with all hard copy submissions. Annie Bomke Literary Agency will read your material and respond to you within 6-8 weeks of submission.













    Nov 12, 2020

    Agent Spotlight Series: Jill Marsal

     

    A warm welcome to literary agent Jill Marsal! Jill is a founding partner of the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and has been in the publishing industry for 20 years. Previously, she worked as a Literary Agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and at Dorchester Publications and Tudor Publishing, editing women’s fiction and suspense/thrillers. Jill also has a strong legal background and holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She practiced as an attorney with Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati.

    Jill enjoys working with both new and experienced writers. A few of Jill’s represented books include WITH LOVE FROM THE INSIDE by Angela Pisel (Putnam), THE CHALLENGER SALE by Wall Street Journal bestselling authors Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson (Portfolio), ONE POISON PIE by NYT bestselling author Lynn Cahoon (Kensington), SEE HER DIE by WSJ and Amazon Charts bestselling author Melinda Leigh (Montlake),  LIMITLESS MIND by Stanford Professor Jo Boaler (Harper One), MIDDLE SCHOOL MATTERS by Phyllis Fagell (Da Capo), and FEELING AT HOME: THE BRAIN AND WHERE WE LIVE by John S. Allen (Basic).

    CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
    Jill: In high school, we had a career day, and a literary agent came and spoke to my class.  I had never heard of the profession before, but I thought wow, reading for a job! I went home and got out the yellow pages (this was before the internet) and contacted several local literary agencies and got a job assisting one of the local agents. She encouraged me to apply to New York for an editorial position, and several years later, I did that and worked for Dorchester Publishing.  Later, I joined the Dijkstra Agency and after that co-founded the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.  

    I love reading and editing and working with authors to make their manuscripts as strong as possible.  It is such an exciting process to be able to work on a manuscript and take it from idea/concept to completed book.  And I love taking a manuscript on submission and getting “the call” from an editor and then making “the call” to an author.  It’s great being part of the process which brings readers books that can impact their lives, offer intriguing stories, take readers to places they would never otherwise experience, and entertain and inspire.  If I wasn’t an agent, I would love to stay in the publishing world- either as an editor, bookseller, or somehow find another career related to books and publishing.

    CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
    Jill: I think good communication is critical to a successful agent-author relationship.  Whether it is phone or email or both, it is important for the agent to understand the author’s goals and vision for his or her work and equally important for the author to hear what the agent thinks is needed to get there and for the two to be able to strategize, partner, and work toward achieving those goals. I think other attributes of a great agent-author relationship include being timely and responsive, on both sides. 

    CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
    Jill: It really depends on the manuscript.  Some authors come in with manuscripts in very strong shape and might need just light edits whereas others may need more editorial feedback.  In the latter case, I am hands-on and will go back and forth to try and make the manuscript as strong as possible.  For a debut author who has never written before, there tends to be more feedback and editorial focus whereas a bestselling, experienced author might need more help with career building, marketing, and branding rather than editing. 

    CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
    Jill: Social distancing hasn’t had much impact on pitching.  I can pitch to publishers on the phone and through emails. Pitching is really about the long-term relationships an agent develops with editors.  A good agent will know what specific editors are looking for, what are the editor’s areas of interest, which editors are likely to connect with a project, etc. so the agent can target the right manuscript or proposal to the right editor.  

    CM: Can you share with us a client success story, from their query/introduction to you all the way to publication?
    Jill: I had a query come in from a mystery author on a Friday, read her pages over the weekend, and called her and then sent an agency agreement on Monday.  She had a terrific voice and really strong writing and plot. I couldn’t put the manuscript down.  On Tuesday, we went on submission with the manuscript, and she had her first offer come in the following Saturday, one week from sending her query!  While the process is not usually that fast, it was incredibly exciting and very rewarding to see a top manuscript get picked up so quickly. The author has also branched out and is now writing for another publisher as well under a pen name.

    CM: Name a book you recently read and can’t stop thinking about.
    Jill: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

    CM: How important is voice in a query? 
    Jill: While it is great if a query does have voice in it, it often can be tough for voice to come through in a query.  However, a strong/distinct voice is critical for the actual manuscript.  I think this can really make a manuscript standout, and a good writer can make any subject come alive with a strong voice. For the query, it is generally more of a summary- I want to know there are interesting characters- people who you want to find out what will happen to them.  They might introduce you to an unfamiliar world or they might be people you identify with and relate to.  I also think it is important to have a great “hook” or emotionally compelling situation that will intrigue editors and readers and make them want to read the manuscript- ask yourself what about these characters or their situations is compelling or interesting or will make readers want to stay with them for 300+ pages?

    CM: Please describe the kinds of books you want to agent.
    Jill: I am looking for all types of mystery/suspense/psychological suspense, as well as cozies and thrillers that keep the pages turning and have an original hook. 

    I am also looking for commercial fiction, all types of women's fiction, historical fiction, stories of family, friendships, secrets, interesting relationships, Southern fiction, or multi-generations.  I welcome a dramatic storyline and compelling characters in interesting situations or relationships.  If you have a novel that has a highly original concept or voice, I would love to see it.

    On the non-fiction side, my areas of interest include current events, business, health, self-help, relationships, psychology, parenting, history, science, and narrative non-fiction.  I am particularly drawn to projects which will move readers or leave them thinking, which make provocative arguments or share interesting research, or which offer useful, new advice.
    _______

    Wish List

    Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
    • Fiction: all types of commercial fiction, women’s fiction, stories of family, interesting relationships, Southern fiction, or multi-generations, and romance. 
    • Mysteries, psychological suspense, cozies, and thrillers that keep the pages turning and have an original hook. 
    • Dramatic storylines and compelling characters in interesting situations or relationships, or a highly original concept or voice.
    • Non-fiction: business, current events, health, self-help, advice/relationships, psychology, parenting, history, science, and narrative non-fiction. 
    What you’re not interested in:
    • Memoir, picture books
    _______

    2 Client Examples
    (This list includes affiliate links)

    Montlake - 2020
    Ballantine - 2020
    _______

    Query Tips
    I would suggest opening your query identifying your name, the title of your book, and the genre.  This way, as agents read your query letter, they can focus on the summary of your project instead of having to try to figure out what type of manuscript it is.  
    A good query will generally have one to two paragraphs summarizing the book and also one paragraph about the author describing all relevant writing experience, prior publications, writing awards, and author platform. 

    _______

    Submission Guidelines
    Send a query letter by email, with the word QUERY in the email’s subject line, to:


















    Nov 9, 2020

    Agent Spotlight Series: Dawn Dowdle

    A warm welcome to literary agent Dawn Dowdle!
    About Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency: 
    My family and I live in Lynchburg, VA, in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  I am an avid lover of cozy mysteries and enjoy attending Malice Domestic. For relaxation, I assemble 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles. 

    The agency is a boutique agency, where I primarily represent Romances and Mysteries. While I represent a lot of Cozy Mysteries, that is not the only type of Mystery I represent. I am also looking for Picture Books, Cookbooks, True Crime, and Middle Grade Mysteries.

    One of my favorite things to do is attend writers' conferences. In addition to networking with other agents and editors, I try to meet with any of my authors who might live in the area, as well as meet new authors.

    CM: Tell us two truths and one lie about you.
    Dawn: My husband and I met through a phone ad. (truth)
    I was a Missionary in my early 20s. (truth)
    I enjoy skydiving. (false)

    CM: What areas of the market do you think are oversaturated more recently?
    Dawn: Mysteries have become oversaturated in the last couple of years. I feel there are still plenty of readers, but editors have become much more selective in acquiring mysteries due to the market.

    CM: How did you become an agent? If you were not an agent, what career would you have pursued?
    Dawn: I opened my agency for a couple of reasons. 1) I wanted to be more available to newer authors. 2) I wanted to be more accessible to my authors. Truthfully, being an agent is my favorite career. It took until I was 50 to find it and I can’t imagine doing anything else.

    CM: An agent-author relationship is all about the people. What attributes do your best client relationships share?
    Dawn: A willingness to accept edits and to keep trying to promote their books. Being willing to interact with readers.

    CM: How many authors do you represent? How has your author list changed over time?
    Dawn: I represent approximately 60 authors. People sometimes say that is too many. You have to remember that not everyone is at the same stage at the same time. Some are writing their next book and so there isn’t anything I need to do at that time other than disburse royalties to them. Some I am editing their manuscript and that takes more interaction or some I am querying. Once the query letter goes out, then it’s just checking back with the editors and keeping the authors notified of responses. Early on I had to realize that, while I would like to be an author’s agent for their whole career, that might not happen. Sometimes an author’s writing changes and they don’t fit what I represent. Sometimes an author’s book’s sales are low and they really don’t need an agent any longer. Sometimes an author stops writing for one reason or another.

    CM: How hands-on are you in the editing process before you send the manuscript out to publishers?
    Dawn: Every book goes through full editing with me before it is queried to editors. 

    CM: How do you pitch books to publishers in a world that requires social distancing?
    Dawn: This really hasn’t changed for me. I live in Virginia and pitch books via email.

    CM: Describe the path to publication for one of the books you represent. 
    Dawn: One author I represent had an agent before me. I believe that agent had the book for 4-5 years and was unable to get an offer for it. During this time, the author was continuing to learn and change her manuscript. From the time I signed her to getting an offer of publication was approximately 5 months. You do have to remember that the manuscript her first agent was querying was different from the one I was querying. A lot of changes had been made.

    _______

    Wish List

    Genres/sub-genres you’re looking for:
    • Cozy Mysteries (Female Protagonist), Mysteries, Historical Mysteries, Suspense, 
    • Amish Romance, Romantic Comedy, Romantic Suspense, Inspirational Romance, Historical Romance
    • True Crime, 
    • Cookbooks
    • Middle Reader Mysteries
    • Children's Picture Books
    What you’re not interested in:
    • Erotica
    • Word counts over 100K, omniscient Points of View; 
    • Fantasy or sci fi (even romance), paranormal romance
    • Previously published works or books in a published series
    _______

    2 Client Examples
    (This list includes affiliate links)

    Zebra - 2020
    Crooked Lane Books - 2020
    _______

    Query Tips

    Please provide a couple of tips for querying authors.

    Dos:
    • Edit your manuscript, synopsis & query letter before submitting.
    • Research the agents/editors you are querying and make your query letter fit them.
    Don'ts:
    • Send one email to multiple agents at a time. We will delete it.
    • Say you saw something on our website that attracted you that isn’t really on that agent’s website.
    _______

    Submission Guidelines:
    Your manuscript should: be edited, completed, double-spaced with 1" margins, have chapters begin on a new page, have chapter headings, be in Times New Roman font, be in font size 12, be LESS than 100K words. 

    You must follow the query instructions on my website:  www.blueridgeagency.com
    DO NOT E-MAIL YOUR QUERY!
    Submit a query to Dawn using this link: